The earthquake in Haiti last evening is a tragedy and a catastrophe. And the natural desire to help is a very well-placed thing and should be acted upon. However, there are people who are more than happy to take advantage of our desires to help out.
Already there are a bunch of domain names being registered referencing the Haiti Disaster (http://isc.sans.org). They don’t specify how many or what names, but I’ll bet by the end of the day, a list will be up. This happens after every major disaster—or major news event. While some (or most) of the sites may be legitimate, there will be a large number that are not.
There is a new method going around also. Sending SMS requests via Twitter and Facebook. These messages say something like “SMS yele to xxxxx to donate $5 ($10) to Haiti”. Some will tell you that the donation is charged to your cell phone—others won’t. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do this—I’m saying that you need to be aware of two things: 1) You’re going to see a $5.00 SMS charge on your phone bill (regardless of your “Text Messaging Plan” and 2) you honestly don’t know if that money will go to the Haiti Disaster, or someone’s lifestyle.
If you’re in the United States (and probably other countries as well), your best bet is to go to http://www.redcross.org (The American Red Cross) and donate through them. If you’re interested in the SMS route, try http://www.mgive.com or http://mobilegivinginsider.com as they are vetted by ISC. The American Red Cross is also on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/redcross (or @redcross).
If you have SMS “Premium blocking” enabled on your phone, you may have to call your wireless carrier first to approve the donation (or disable it while you do the donation). My suggestion is to monitor it to find out if you’re suddenly donating every day. If so, then you need to block the charges.
As I said, this is already a tragedy and a catastrophe. Please don’t let it become a financial tragedy for you. Donate—but do it through legitimate sources. Check the ISC lists and check out the site (and entities behind the sites) BEFORE you donate.
Myself, I’m waiting to see what my local chapter of Phi Theta Kappa is going to do. I’ll help them, or I’ll make a donation to the Red Cross. Maybe, I’ll even donate blood (since that will be needed as badly as money).
Have a great day:)